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NYC Running on Empty..The Best 'INGs' in Life

11/07/2012 05:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 07, 2013

In Wonderland, the Queen told Alice that "it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place." In New York, it's another story.

New Yorkers might be called hyper, neurotic and intense, but they sure know how to run. And they usually get somewhere. In fact, they've made an art out of running. From running up bar tabs to running down pedestrians; from running into ex-boyfriends to running out of patience. But the decision to run -- or not to run -- the 42nd annual NYC ING Marathon - that was the question.

ING and NYC were in the running for making the big decision. Why, then, did it seem like the super-bank and the super-mayor were running from taking a position?

My Dad always said, it's either A or B, and alas, I always wanted Z. His point? Make a decision and stick with it. In this "marathon or not?" case, the obvious decision was unclear. Running out of time, the mayor made a choice to go forward with the marathon.

Now Mayor Bloomberg may be running the Big Apple show, but he also runs the risk of criticism. Good intentions may run into bad decisions. As for running up against outspoken New Yorkers? It comes with the job. Under normal circumstances, he gets lots of heat. He's hassled about everything from soda pop bans to restaurant grades. But in the midst of a natural disaster of the magnitude of Sandy, he's raked over the coals. New Yorkers' anxiety was running high; nerves were running ragged. Except for the marathoners, nothing was running, not even the NYC subways - the pulse of the city. No heat, no electricity, no power, no course. New Yorkers were run down.

As the Sandy-struck week wore on, international runners delayed their travel plans, eagerly awaiting Bloomberg's final word. Once they heard the YAY decision, they were pumped. Pouring in from around the world, marathoners were running on gas when we in New York had no gas. They were running high on adrenalin; we were running low on hope.

Everyone except the actual runners was running ragged. So what exactly was the point of keeping the marathon running on schedule, especially since everything else on the calendar was being shaken up? From Wall Street to witches, nothing seemed sacred. For the first time since 1888, the NY Stock Exchange was closed. For the first time since 1974, the NYC Hallowe'en parade was cancelled. Trying to run interference, the mayor was trying not to playing games. Attempting to uplift the city's spirits, not to downplay the disaster, he declared that the 42nd NYC Marathon would definitely take place. Great for morale; great for income; great for NYC spirit. Not exactly.

Everyone from hurricane victims to politicians started bitching. If the stranded New Yorker had no plate of hot food, why should the runners be treated to steaming carb-filled bowls of pasta? If the desolate city dweller could barely scrape up a generator, why should hizzoner be generously doling out generators to the marathon, with a back-up waiting in the Central Park wings? If the lonely renter was sitting in his or her apartment without a drop of water, how could runners be cheered on with water bottles and Gatorade poured over their sweating heads? If the disabled needed an impossible-to-get hotel room, why should a physically fit runner take that scarce spot? The ING NYC marathon was running amok; it would surely divert scarce resources from a depleted city.

And yet, many thought the marathoners, having trained for months, should have their day in the run. Many were running for causes, from animal rights to breast cancer, and were super-motivated to inspire New Yorkers, as well as hurricane victims.

Bloomberg was running out of time in the heat of his attackers. In the face of maelstrom thunderstorm, he was almost run out of town. So, at the 11th hour, the decision was reversed.

Where was ING, the title sponsor of the NYC Marathon, in all of this? Pioneering? Avoiding? Running out of steam? Or just running from the limelight? According to their website page, ING's business principles and philosophy focus on people; trust; integrity; human rights; respect; and positive change. In fact, ING U.S. emphasizes corporate, social and environmental responsibility, aspiring to use its knowledge, skills and resources to make a real difference in people's lives. Their Approach, Vision and Strategy section even identifies a list of "Five Pillars," which include Better Communities and a Better Environmental Footprint. ING encourages volunteerism, particularly in local communities.

If that's the case, then perhaps ING should have listened harder to its own voice, in true partnerING spirit with NYC/Bloomberg, suggesting organized runs and events to make a real difference to victims of Sandy. Ultimately, groups of runners did this on their own initiative, both on the day of the marathon, and since. The movement is spiraling, with bicyclists, yoga groups, zoomba-ists, artists, pacifists, activists and concerned citizens gathering supplies, trekking and schlepping out to Rockaway, Staten Island and anywhere they're needed -- pumping, feeding, distributing, organizing and lending a hand.

ING and NYC, take note: some ING-sights of enlightenment for all New Yorkers, marathoners or not, to avoid running on empty:

• Keep Go-ING -- Many of the Best ING's in life end in ING, from laughING and cryING to singING and smile-ING. Even if you are running in circles, just keep GO-ING.

• Keep Dream-ING -- Remember Field of Dreams: If you build, they will come? Keep aiming high, thinking huge. As kids, we built sand castles with pails of ocean water. If we'd used a thimble, we'd never have finished. We'd drag our red pail up to the ocean's edge, fill it up and pour water onto the castle. No matter that the castle kept crumbling. We kept rebuilding our castles, as well as our mini-dreams. The storm may have ripped up the origami of our lives that we worked so hard to fold together. Keep re-molding, refolding, believing, and dreaming.

• Keep Swimm-ING -- "...the man who is swimming against the
stream knows the strength of it." - Woodrow Wilson
You don't have to know the backstroke to "keep swimming" -- water is destructive, but also buoyant. And what about those salmon? Swimming against the current, upstream, plucky as ever. Sometimes what seems a rougher route might actually be smoother and get you farther. Still waters run deep.

• Keep Sing-ING -- "He who sings frightens away his ills." - Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) -- Don Quixote
Singing has always been a means of survival, from chain gangs to factory workers. Mothers sing lullabies to hush their children to sleep. Sailors and soldiers sing to hide their misery at being parted from their loved ones. It's a must-do for mockingbirds, katydids and crickets. Blue whales have perfect pitch and humpback whales sing in a choir.

Singing heals our melancholy, letting us to spill out emotions with a melody. Quite simply, it's soothing.

• Keep Bond-ING -- Bonds are a lot more than just 007. Marathon runners can go it alone or with a partner. Homes can be destroyed by one strong wave, and can be rebuilt with one stroke of bonding: friends and strangers, the quiet ones and the aggressive ones, walkers and runners, the slow and steady as well as the quick and nimble. We're all just holding on together.

In the short run, we're not in Wonderland, running in place. In the long run, we'll be up and running.